Friday, January 29, 2010

Gauge: the silent killer

When I started knitting the person who taught me neglected to inform me about gauge. In fact the only mention of it I can remember is when she said "Don't worry about gauge, once you figure out the stitches, then you can worry about gauge."

So on I went, knitting with no knowledge or worries of gauge and all that it involves.  I knit a couple scarves and basked in the glory of my tiny knitted accomplishments. Then I came to my first offical patterned project. I went to my favourite knitting store and while I was picking out yarn to perfectly match the Gryffindor house colours the shopkeeper asked if she could help. I told her I was matching colours for a Harry Potter scarf, and she asked, "Well what is the gauge for the pattern?" I stared at her blankly. I had forgotton all about that strange word, and had no idea how it was relevant to me picking out my yarn. The shopkeeper then scared me straight about gauge. Although I didn't understand most of what she was saying, I walked away from the store with the ulitmate fear that if I didn't have exact gauge none of my knitting would work. Gauge was the most important thing about knitting and I was a crazy for knitting 3 scarves without knowing that. If your needles didn't match the gauge on your yarn, it wouldn't look good, if your yarn and needles didn't match the gauge to your pattern, well it would all end horribly wrong.

Thus, despite continual mocking from my best friend (who almost completely ignores gauge despite my adament warnings) I became a little intense about gauge. Everything I knit, gauge was on my mind. I didn't understand it, but I knew if I ignored it nothing would work.

Time passed, I knit a bunch more projects and became more confident in my knitting abilities. I thought as long as my needles and my yarn matched all would look ok, and so it did, while I knit scarves a purse, a monster etc. Then I did two projects where my gauge matched perfectly to the pattern and my projects ended up horribly wrong. So SMALL! I knit some 'baby booties' that would maybe fit a small doll, possibly a tiny kitten. It was then I lost my faith in gauge.

Well if gauge wouldn't work, I'd make it work. I would even be so bold to say that I was above gauge. I would not let gauge rule my life. I would rule it! Consequently, I started fiddling with gauge. I began knitting this brimmed toque, completely off gauge. My yarn and needles matched, but the pattern called for gauge of size 6mm and I was using 4.5mm. I accounted for the size difference by adding stitches and rows to the pattern. I knit forth secure in the knowledge that I was the gauge master. Master of the gauge. I would not let a pattern tell me what size of needles to use!

Wrong..... wrong....wrong.....horribly wrong! While I rightly added the stitiches to keep it looking consistent and to the proper size I required. I did not account for the cabling factor, that since I was using smaller needles the cabling would look smaller. Fiddlesticks.

 A light bulb has turned on people. I am now hours into my toque and fairly sure if I could go back in time to when the shopkeeper was trying to explain to me the importance of gauge I would fully understand her meaning. My toque looks ok, but not as good as the picture, not as good as if I had followed the proper gauge.

 I surrender. The battle is won and I have lost.

Do you remember cartoons from the good old days?  You would watch a full episode that taught a great moral lesson and at the very end, in case you were too slow to catch it, they went over it again with the main character talking to you saying 'the moral of the story is...'   in respect of that time-honoured tradition I will wrap my blog post up the same way.

Remember kids, if you don't understand something do not be afraid to ask your parents, teachers, friends or knitting store employees for help. The moral of this story is "You don't mess with gauge, or gauge will mess with you."

1 comment:

  1. You are a crazy person. I am still living in the 'mildly ignores gauge' phase of knitting, and it is beautiful. Gauge is put there to make you feel like you need to buy more knitting needles than you already have.